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The Tragedy of King Lear

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Act I, Scene 1

King Lear’s Palace.


Enter Kent, Gloucester, and Edmund. [Kent and Gloucester converse. Edmund stands back.]

  • Earl of Kent. I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than
  • Earl of Gloucester. It did always seem so to us; but now, in the division of the
    kingdom, it appears not which of the Dukes he values most, for 5
    equalities are so weigh'd that curiosity in neither can make
    choice of either's moiety.
  • Earl of Gloucester. His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge. I have so often
    blush'd to acknowledge him that now I am braz'd to't. 10
  • Earl of Gloucester. Sir, this young fellow's mother could; whereupon she grew
    round-womb'd, and had indeed, sir, a son for her cradle ere she
    had a husband for her bed. Do you smell a fault?
  • Earl of Kent. I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it being so 15
  • Earl of Gloucester. But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year elder than
    this, who yet is no dearer in my account. Though this knave came
    something saucily into the world before he was sent for, yet was
    his mother fair, there was good sport at his making, and the 20
    whoreson must be acknowledged.- Do you know this noble gentleman,
  • Edmund. [comes forward] No, my lord.
  • Edmund. My services to your lordship.
  • Edmund. Sir, I shall study deserving.
  • Earl of Gloucester. He hath been out nine years, and away he shall again.
    [Sound a sennet.] 30
    The King is coming.

Enter one bearing a coronet; then Lear; then the Dukes of Albany and Cornwall; next, Goneril, Regan, Cordelia, with Followers.

  • Lear. Attend the lords of France and Burgundy, Gloucester.

Exeunt [Gloucester and Edmund].

  • Lear. Meantime we shall express our darker purpose.
    Give me the map there. Know we have divided
    In three our kingdom; and 'tis our fast intent
    To shake all cares and business from our age,
    Conferring them on younger strengths while we 40
    Unburthen'd crawl toward death. Our son of Cornwall,
    And you, our no less loving son of Albany,
    We have this hour a constant will to publish
    Our daughters' several dowers, that future strife
    May be prevented now. The princes, France and Burgundy, 45
    Great rivals in our youngest daughter's love,
    Long in our court have made their amorous sojourn,
    And here are to be answer'd. Tell me, my daughters
    (Since now we will divest us both of rule,
    Interest of territory, cares of state), 50
    Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
    That we our largest bounty may extend
    Where nature doth with merit challenge. Goneril,
    Our eldest-born, speak first.
  • Goneril. Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; 55
    Dearer than eyesight, space, and liberty;
    Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
    No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour;
    As much as child e'er lov'd, or father found;
    A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable. 60
    Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
  • Cordelia. [aside] What shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.
  • Lear. Of all these bounds, even from this line to this,
    With shadowy forests and with champains rich'd,
    With plenteous rivers and wide-skirted meads, 65
    We make thee lady. To thine and Albany's issue
    Be this perpetual.- What says our second daughter,
    Our dearest Regan, wife to Cornwall? Speak.
  • Regan. Sir, I am made
    Of the selfsame metal that my sister is, 70
    And prize me at her worth. In my true heart
    I find she names my very deed of love;
    Only she comes too short, that I profess
    Myself an enemy to all other joys
    Which the most precious square of sense possesses, 75
    And find I am alone felicitate
    In your dear Highness' love.
  • Cordelia. [aside] Then poor Cordelia!
    And yet not so; since I am sure my love's
    More richer than my tongue. 80
  • Lear. To thee and thine hereditary ever
    Remain this ample third of our fair kingdom,
    No less in space, validity, and pleasure
    Than that conferr'd on Goneril.- Now, our joy,
    Although the last, not least; to whose young love 85
    The vines of France and milk of Burgundy
    Strive to be interest; what can you say to draw
    A third more opulent than your sisters? Speak.
  • Lear. Nothing can come of nothing. Speak again.
  • Cordelia. Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave
    My heart into my mouth. I love your Majesty
    According to my bond; no more nor less. 95
  • Lear. How, how, Cordelia? Mend your speech a little,
    Lest it may mar your fortunes.
  • Cordelia. Good my lord,
    You have begot me, bred me, lov'd me; I
    Return those duties back as are right fit, 100
    Obey you, love you, and most honour you.
    Why have my sisters husbands, if they say
    They love you all? Haply, when I shall wed,
    That lord whose hand must take my plight shall carry
    Half my love with him, half my care and duty. 105
    Sure I shall never marry like my sisters,
    To love my father all.
  • Lear. But goes thy heart with this?
  • Lear. So young, and so untender? 110
  • Lear. Let it be so! thy truth then be thy dower!
    For, by the sacred radiance of the sun,
    The mysteries of Hecate and the night;
    By all the operation of the orbs 115
    From whom we do exist and cease to be;
    Here I disclaim all my paternal care,
    Propinquity and property of blood,
    And as a stranger to my heart and me
    Hold thee from this for ever. The barbarous Scythian, 120
    Or he that makes his generation messes
    To gorge his appetite, shall to my bosom
    Be as well neighbour'd, pitied, and reliev'd,
    As thou my sometime daughter.
  • Lear. Peace, Kent!
    Come not between the dragon and his wrath.
    I lov'd her most, and thought to set my rest
    On her kind nursery.- Hence and avoid my sight!-
    So be my grave my peace as here I give 130
    Her father's heart from her! Call France! Who stirs?
    Call Burgundy! Cornwall and Albany,
    With my two daughters' dowers digest this third;
    Let pride, which she calls plainness, marry her.
    I do invest you jointly in my power, 135
    Preeminence, and all the large effects
    That troop with majesty. Ourself, by monthly course,
    With reservation of an hundred knights,
    By you to be sustain'd, shall our abode
    Make with you by due turns. Only we still retain 140
    The name, and all th' additions to a king. The sway,
    Revenue, execution of the rest,
    Beloved sons, be yours; which to confirm,
    This coronet part betwixt you.
  • Earl of Kent. Royal Lear, 145
    Whom I have ever honour'd as my king,
    Lov'd as my father, as my master follow'd,
    As my great patron thought on in my prayers-
  • Lear. The bow is bent and drawn; make from the shaft.
  • Earl of Kent. Let it fall rather, though the fork invade 150
    The region of my heart! Be Kent unmannerly
    When Lear is mad. What wouldst thou do, old man?
    Think'st thou that duty shall have dread to speak
    When power to flattery bows? To plainness honour's bound
    When majesty falls to folly. Reverse thy doom; 155
    And in thy best consideration check
    This hideous rashness. Answer my life my judgment,
    Thy youngest daughter does not love thee least,
    Nor are those empty-hearted whose low sound
    Reverbs no hollowness. 160
  • Lear. Kent, on thy life, no more!
  • Earl of Kent. My life I never held but as a pawn
    To wage against thine enemies; nor fear to lose it,
    Thy safety being the motive.
  • Lear. Out of my sight! 165
  • Earl of Kent. See better, Lear, and let me still remain
    The true blank of thine eye.
  • Lear. Now by Apollo-
  • Earl of Kent. Now by Apollo, King,
    Thou swear'st thy gods in vain. 170
  • Lear. O vassal! miscreant! [Lays his hand on his sword.]
  • Earl of Kent. Do!
    Kill thy physician, and the fee bestow
    Upon the foul disease. Revoke thy gift, 175
    Or, whilst I can vent clamour from my throat,
    I'll tell thee thou dost evil.
  • Lear. Hear me, recreant!
    On thine allegiance, hear me!
    Since thou hast sought to make us break our vow- 180
    Which we durst never yet- and with strain'd pride
    To come between our sentence and our power,-
    Which nor our nature nor our place can bear,-
    Our potency made good, take thy reward.
    Five days we do allot thee for provision 185
    To shield thee from diseases of the world,
    And on the sixth to turn thy hated back
    Upon our kingdom. If, on the tenth day following,
    Thy banish'd trunk be found in our dominions,
    The moment is thy death. Away! By Jupiter, 190
    This shall not be revok'd.
  • Earl of Kent. Fare thee well, King. Since thus thou wilt appear,
    Freedom lives hence, and banishment is here.
    [To Cordelia] The gods to their dear shelter take thee, maid,
    That justly think'st and hast most rightly said! 195
    [To Regan and Goneril] And your large speeches may your deeds
    That good effects may spring from words of love.
    Thus Kent, O princes, bids you all adieu;
    He'll shape his old course in a country new. Exit. 200

Flourish. Enter Gloucester, with France and Burgundy; Attendants.

  • Lear. My Lord of Burgundy,
    We first address toward you, who with this king
    Hath rivall'd for our daughter. What in the least 205
    Will you require in present dower with her,
    Or cease your quest of love?
  • Duke of Burgundy. Most royal Majesty,
    I crave no more than hath your Highness offer'd,
    Nor will you tender less. 210
  • Lear. Right noble Burgundy,
    When she was dear to us, we did hold her so;
    But now her price is fall'n. Sir, there she stands.
    If aught within that little seeming substance,
    Or all of it, with our displeasure piec'd, 215
    And nothing more, may fitly like your Grace,
    She's there, and she is yours.
  • Lear. Will you, with those infirmities she owes,
    Unfriended, new adopted to our hate, 220
    Dow'r'd with our curse, and stranger'd with our oath,
    Take her, or leave her?
  • Duke of Burgundy. Pardon me, royal sir.
    Election makes not up on such conditions.
  • Lear. Then leave her, sir; for, by the pow'r that made me, 225
    I tell you all her wealth. [To France] For you, great King,
    I would not from your love make such a stray
    To match you where I hate; therefore beseech you
    T' avert your liking a more worthier way
    Than on a wretch whom nature is asham'd 230
    Almost t' acknowledge hers.
  • King of France. This is most strange,
    That she that even but now was your best object,
    The argument of your praise, balm of your age,
    Most best, most dearest, should in this trice of time 235
    Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle
    So many folds of favour. Sure her offence
    Must be of such unnatural degree
    That monsters it, or your fore-vouch'd affection
    Fall'n into taint; which to believe of her 240
    Must be a faith that reason without miracle
    Should never plant in me.
  • Cordelia. I yet beseech your Majesty,
    If for I want that glib and oily art
    To speak and purpose not, since what I well intend, 245
    I'll do't before I speak- that you make known
    It is no vicious blot, murther, or foulness,
    No unchaste action or dishonoured step,
    That hath depriv'd me of your grace and favour;
    But even for want of that for which I am richer- 250
    A still-soliciting eye, and such a tongue
    As I am glad I have not, though not to have it
    Hath lost me in your liking.
  • Lear. Better thou
    Hadst not been born than not t' have pleas'd me better. 255
  • King of France. Is it but this- a tardiness in nature
    Which often leaves the history unspoke
    That it intends to do? My Lord of Burgundy,
    What say you to the lady? Love's not love
    When it is mingled with regards that stands 260
    Aloof from th' entire point. Will you have her?
    She is herself a dowry.
  • Duke of Burgundy. Royal Lear,
    Give but that portion which yourself propos'd,
    And here I take Cordelia by the hand, 265
    Duchess of Burgundy.
  • Lear. Nothing! I have sworn; I am firm.
  • Duke of Burgundy. I am sorry then you have so lost a father
    That you must lose a husband.
  • Cordelia. Peace be with Burgundy! 270
    Since that respects of fortune are his love,
    I shall not be his wife.
  • King of France. Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor;
    Most choice, forsaken; and most lov'd, despis'd!
    Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon. 275
    Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.
    Gods, gods! 'tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
    My love should kindle to inflam'd respect.
    Thy dow'rless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,
    Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France. 280
    Not all the dukes in wat'rish Burgundy
    Can buy this unpriz'd precious maid of me.
    Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
    Thou losest here, a better where to find.
  • Lear. Thou hast her, France; let her be thine; for we 285
    Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
    That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
    Without our grace, our love, our benison.
    Come, noble Burgundy.

Flourish. Exeunt Lear, Burgundy, [Cornwall, Albany, Gloucester, and Attendants].

  • Cordelia. The jewels of our father, with wash'd eyes
    Cordelia leaves you. I know you what you are;
    And, like a sister, am most loath to call
    Your faults as they are nam'd. Use well our father. 295
    To your professed bosoms I commit him;
    But yet, alas, stood I within his grace,
    I would prefer him to a better place!
    So farewell to you both.
  • Goneril. Prescribe not us our duties. 300
  • Regan. Let your study
    Be to content your lord, who hath receiv'd you
    At fortune's alms. You have obedience scanted,
    And well are worth the want that you have wanted.
  • Cordelia. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. 305
    Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.
    Well may you prosper!

Exeunt France and Cordelia.

  • Goneril. Sister, it is not little I have to say of what most nearly 310
    appertains to us both. I think our father will hence to-night.
  • Regan. That's most certain, and with you; next month with us.
  • Goneril. You see how full of changes his age is. The observation we
    have made of it hath not been little. He always lov'd our
    sister most, and with what poor judgment he hath now cast her 315
    off appears too grossly.
  • Regan. 'Tis the infirmity of his age; yet he hath ever but slenderly
    known himself.
  • Goneril. The best and soundest of his time hath been but rash; then
    must we look to receive from his age, not alone the 320
    imperfections of long-ingraffed condition, but therewithal
    the unruly waywardness that infirm and choleric years bring with
  • Regan. Such unconstant starts are we like to have from him as this
    of Kent's banishment. 325
  • Goneril. There is further compliment of leave-taking between France and
    him. Pray you let's hit together. If our father carry authority
    with such dispositions as he bears, this last surrender of his
    will but offend us.
  • Regan. We shall further think on't. 330
  • Goneril. We must do something, and i' th' heat.